New Super-Man #3 came out last week and it has taken me a while to get to the review. I have to say, this is one of the more entertaining books for the #Rebirth DC universe. There are contradictions to the book which is impressive as you will see. And as a result, I really have to give some credit to writer Gene Luen Yang because he is walking a tightrope.
What do I mean about contradictions?
Part of it is that it feels completely fresh, a new character in a new environment.
Part of it is that it feels sort of established. We are seeing new versions of DCU mainstays and New Super-Man definitely has a Metropolis Kid feel to him.
Part of it is that there is a ton of humor in the book.
Part of it is that there is a tragic back story to the main character.
Part of it is that New Super-Man is a something of a jerk, a bully.
Part of it is that New Super-Man has a wounded soul, making his bullying a possible defense mechanism.
It isn't easy to wed all those things and yet, at least in these three issues, Yang is pulling it off. And within all that, Yang is telling a great story with some interesting subplots.
The art is by Viktor Bogdanovic. For a book which could veer to more a more slick, stylized, Asian style, Bogdanovic brings a sort rough house style. That makes it a sort of contradiction as well.
Not bad to keep a grizzled reader like me intrigued and invested.
On to the book!
Last issue ended with New Super-Man revealing his secret identity to the Chinese media.
And then, he reveals the existence of the Justice League of China
Now, remember this League is a top secret team led by Dr. Omen. So Kenan revealing everything wasn't really on the docket. And yet, that sounds exactly like what a teenager might do, trying to grab 5 minutes of fame, get a ton of followers, and be a rock star.
But Yang shows that this has a ripple effect. We see how the other power brokers on the planet react.
One of the plot lines I really like is Kenan's Dad being involved in some rebellious group trying to take down the Ministry of Self-Reliance. I was wondering of Kenan would be leading a sort of double life - acting as an agent of the Ministry while listening to his Dad fight against it.
Instead, Yang has that reveal now. In fact, the father sees the octagonal S-shield which means the Super-Man is working for the Ministry. How will the strained father/son relationship survive this bigger strain.
Everyone knows everything. So much for a shadowy double life. That is innovative.
But even though Kenan seems smarmy and narcissistic, he definitely has this wounded, lonely adolescent side to him. He tells Wonder Woman that he revealed his identity because he wanted Laney Lan to notice him. And he wanted his father to notice him. He really is a bully with an inferiority complex. There is a lot to mine there.
I also like that in the League's prison, we see the first failed Chinese Super-Man. I am assuming this is the failed experiment from The Last Days of Superman where we first met Dr. Omen. He was a plot thread I did not want ignored.
Nice expressive work by Bogdanovic here. You see Wonder Woman's concern, Kenan's sadness, and the other Super-Man's insanity.
And you know who else is in that prison? Starro!!! Love me some Starro!
Another plot I like and am glad to see Yang covering is the reaction of the Great Ten.
The Great Ten never seemed to take off as a viable property, despite being created by Grant Morrison.
I love that the Ten isn't happy with Omen. A fight is brewing.
But remember, I said this had some humor in it. And it isn't just Kenan's shenanigans.
I love that Dr. Omen punishes Kenan with a laser weapon for revealing his identity. There is something Looney Tunes about this, especially when you see Omen's expression.
The League ends up becoming fast friends. I like that Wonder Woman seems to be adopting a 'big sister' sort of role with Kenan. She teases him about liking the 'spunky TV sort of girl'. He laughs with him. She defends him from Omen. And she supports him when he opens up.
I like that she isn't just another soldier who has been indoctrinated into Omen's plans.
Meanwhile, we get this League's Batman who is much more the stolid, stick in the mud, obedient, good soldier.
He realizes that the recent attacks on citizens have a common thread. He knows who will be attacked next.
Amazingly, Super-Man convinces this Batman to go against protocol and head out to protect Professor Zheng Shiqiang, a noted biologist and one of the three people who fund the Ministry (along with the already attacked Luo Longde and Wei Li).
This is a new team so I like they are still learning about each other and feeling out each others' motivations.
The professor turns out to be aware of the impending attack and fearing the League are actually assassins, he unleashes a sort of hydra monster on them.
There is a nice attack where the heroes use the beasts own acidic blood to blind it and drive it away. As hard as it is for Batman to admit, it was Super-Man's idea.
Again, I love Bogdanovic's work in this scene. Really slick action.
But then the actual assassins do show up. The Freedom Fighters of China! Great cliffhanger.
I am loving this. I guess Yang is creating an Eastern DCU! That explains the Blue Condor (like Black Condor). Are they heroes? Villains? Is the Ministry 'good' or 'evil? Why does Kenan's father not trust them?
So overall a very full issue of character moments, action, and plot progression. Nothing wrong with that trifecta! Hope everyone is getting this book!